Oze national park Katashina village has very fertile land so there are approximately 80 large farms that grow and sell highland-grown fresh produce. Typical for Katashina are radishes, tomatoes, sweet corn, apples and of course the berry delicious blueberries.
I went for a visit to the blueberry fruit garden called Kaneko Orchard. The friendly owner, Kaneko-san, told us about her 1,000 blueberry bushes. Some of these plants are 20 years old.
Overall, she has 20 different types of blueberries, which make it possible to have a relatively long season, ranging from July to September. There even is a special Gunma blueberry which can be picked in August (Gunma is the prefecture Katashina is located in).
I wandered about how she protects the berries from the birds and bugs. She explained that they have been trying a lot of different methods. At the moment they are fixing a plastic owl into the field. It has flinging metal wings that swings around and makes weird noises to scare off other birds.
The Kaneko Orchard sells their berries in the local shops of Katashina – such as Katashinaya (local restaurant and souvenir shop – opposite my office!).
You can also pay Kaneko-san a visit and buy them at the orchard directly. A pot of 100g of blueberries costs 150 yen. Also delicious are the small bottles of their juice that boosts your immune system, made from their own blueberries and blackcurrant.
However, my personal favourite is their pick & eat deal – pay a 400 yen entrance fee, wander through the blueberry fields and eat your own handpicked blueberries directly from the bushes –fresher than fresh!You have 30min to eat as many blueberries as you can, but Kaneko-san is not very strict about sticking to the time limit.I love blueberries!
Before I head to my office in the morning, I actually help with the blueberry picking at the Kaneko Orchard. Every second morning I get on my bike at 6.30am and head to the field. Kaneko-san and her colleagues usually start picking at 5am because it is better for the blueberries to get picked in the cold.
Nevertheless, I have not been able to make myself fall out of bed that early…We wear a big sun hat, a small towel tied around our neck, long sleeves, gloves and have an insect repellent hanging around our neck – to protect ourselves from the insects & sun.
While picking the big blueberries from the fully packed bushes I find myself marveling at the the surrounding fields with the majestic mountain range in the backdrop. And of course I cannot resist to slip a sweet berry into my mouth once in a while. I also get to take some berries home so I am eating these antioxidant & vitamin C rich goodies every single day. It’s fantastic –who doesn’t love blueberries?!
Kaneko-san’s Top Blueberry Tips & Tricks:
Mix frozen blueberries, water & a little sugar (if necessary) in a blender –
and tadaaa you made yourself a deliciously refreshing smoothie.
Simply just snack on the frozen berries on a hot summer’s day.
As the typical Japanese summer is very hot, they are fond of vinegar drinks to keep them hydrated. So Kaneko-san recommends you to add some vinegar into her blueberry juice!
The people of Katashina also enjoy soaking their local blueberries in shochu (a traditional Japanese distilled spirit made from barley, buckwheat or sweet potatoes). This results in a deliciously warming winter drink.
Opening times: every day 9:00 – 17:00
Kaneko’s cell phone: 08054735525
Visit Kaneko’s Orchard – Katashina FUNtashina!